Vint Cerf set to part ways with ICANN

Vaya con dios, internet

ICANN recently released its registry fail-over plan for public comment. After the RegisterFly situation, concern about the possible failure of an entire TLD registry kind of bubbled to the surface. How close have we come to this kind of meltdown? This release didn't garner quite as much attention I thought as the IDN rollout, but it's the kind of systemic failure that hits your average internet user. Are there any registries out there that to your knowledge are teetering on the brink of insolvency? How realistic a possibility is this? Promoting competition in the registry business is a stated goal of ICANN, and failure would seem to be a part of that. Can a chunk of the internet really be allowed to disappear forever? It's a strange situation.

First, it is important to distinguish registrar from registry. In the RegisterFly case, it was a registrar that failed, not a registry. A private sector solution was implemented. The episode heightened the focus on the implementation of escrow procedures for both registries and registrars to protect the interests of registrants. It is possible there are other registrars that are marginal.

A bigger concern is for registry failure. There is a strong interest at ICANN in assuring that registered domain names continue to resolve even in the event that the associated TLD registry fails. We cannot guarantee that a registry or registrar will not fail but we can try to assure that the information needed to reconstitute a registry or registrar is on hand and demonstrably adequate for recovery. Competition can indeed lead to business failures and ICANN needs procedures that will allow such failures to be recovered through the appointment of a new operator.

What's next for you? You don't seem like the kind of person to fade away into anonymity, and you've got the tech evangelist gig at Google. What kind of internet do you foresee 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, and what kind of role do you think you'll play in that development? How do you top being the father of the internet?

I plan to spend the next year concentrating on my work at Google, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and getting started on writing the five books I put aside in 1999.

I have worked hard with my colleagues to develop an architecture and protocol framework to allow the internet to operate across the solar system. I hope to see this system adopted by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems as a means of allowing international spacecraft to inter-communicate using standard protocols. The process may result in the aggregation of an interplanetary backbone over the course of the next several decades.

I anticipate more broadband and mobile penetration of the internet around the world and perhaps as many as three billion users online by the end of this first decade of the 21st Century.

By the way, I am only one of the fathers of the internet – there are many who have contributed to its conception and realization to say nothing of its amazing evolution in the past three decades. It is with a feeling of great gratitude that I look back on the opportunity to be a part of an amazing effort that continues to evolve and grow.

When Bob Kahn and I began the design of the internet protocols, we knew we had uncovered a powerful technology, but I think we did not have a full appreciation of how powerful until 34 years later when we can see what these ideas have become. I can hardly wait to see what happens in the decades ahead. ®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Franicsco law office

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